Have any of you had to or chosen to move lately? Most of us have heard the quip that a really good friend will help you move or bury a body. I suppose the latter is a really, really good friend.
Recently, the AFSA offices packed up years of accumulated stuff in the process of moving from the third floor of a high-rise building in Dallas, where we’ve been for 10-plus years. When the association moved to this location, everything from our prior home—including files, books, NEC binders, posters, furniture, and chairs—many of which were so old that the Dead Sea had not yet been diagnosed as being sick when they were delivered. Trust me when I say the staff filled bins with stuff that has been hiding in closets since dinosaurs roamed the planet. Someone told me they found a stone tablet version of NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, in the training room.
The worst part is that we had to be out of our current location by December 31, 2022, but the new location won’t be ready until March 2023, so we’re all working remotely as vagabonds. The good news is we have a 15-year lease on the new space, with two five-year extensions, so I’ll be 92 years old when the time comes to negotiate a new lease or move again. I plan to retire by age 90. The better news is your association staff all worked remotely during the COVID-19 experience, so this is nothing new for our team.
On a more serious note, I want to take a moment to praise the entire AFSA staff in total for their team spirit and hard work. I especially want to call out our technical staff, who always seems to get the spotlight. Still, I have recently received multiple calls and emails praising the new direction of AFSA overall and especially in the tech services group. I want to over-emphasize the fact that we are a team in every way, and while tech services are easy to recognize as the public face of AFSA for many members and affiliates, the entire staff is in the background holding the spotlight. That said, the face of AFSA is a smiling one, and collectively, we are receiving a lot of recognition and praise.
The investment your Board of Directors has made in our association’s direction, and our focus on the training needs of our members live at the heart of the growth and professional development of AFSA. “If you build it, they will come…” is a tagline from a great movie, but, for us, we’re building in the hopes that our members will look toward Dallas as the place to train the people you need to sustain and grow your businesses at the local level. Design schools, apprenticeship courses, and ITM programs are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of training for everyone in your company. Training doesn’t cost—it saves!
The times of swapping and trading people need to come to an end. As I’ve noted in past columns, many of our members are now paying premium wages for mediocre performances, and the term “qualified” is being diminished. Our training programs are designed to provide fire sprinkler contractors with a trained workforce who will help limit liabilities in many ways, including helpful ways to pre-qualify candidates before we invest in them. We have an excellent line-up planned for 2023 with a lot of webinars and live training schools on the calendar to include both beginning and intermediate design schools, ITM hands-on courses, sprinkler hydraulics, advanced hydraulics, and ITM certification prep courses to help candidates achieve certifications. Please visit AFSA’s website at firesprinkler.org for schedules and registration for any of these exciting programs.
As I write this, I am reminded that February 20 marks the 20th anniversary of The Station nightclub fire, which occurred in West Warwick, Rhode Island, killing 100 people and injuring 230. That tragic event and the lives lost should single-handedly make a case for installing and maintaining fire sprinkler systems in all occupiable buildings, but, sadly, we still fight many developers and political interests over this obvious solution to the world’s fire problem.
On a personal note, I am not prone to making New Year’s resolutions, but I am a goal-setter. There are many things I cannot fix about myself, but I have some personal goals that I need to achieve for my personal success and the success of AFSA in terms of team building and leadership. Being a better listener sits at the top of that list, but so does getting out in front of chapters and members as much as possible in 2023 to hear what our membership wants and needs, as well as how we can best deliver those objectives.
Sadly, AFSA says goodbye to Meda Merritt, who has been an integral part of our staff and especially in our membership department. Meda has accepted an offer with a trade association serving professional nurses, and while I’m sure many of our members will agree her departure leaves us sad, I hope everyone will appreciate that she is moving up in her professional development and opening greater opportunities for herself and her family. AFSA has a few open positions here in Dallas, including this Director of Membership position. We can replace her role, but we can never replace Meda’s personality. She is truly one of a kind, and we wish her the very best in her endeavors.
Lastly, I want to sincerely thank each and every member and associate of this organization for your membership, time, and dedication to this industry. Together, we are making our world a better and safer place to live, a fact we sometimes forget with the hustle and bustle of our daily work routines. The AFSA staff and Board members all know and appreciate the fact that we are stronger together. Our industry has many challenges, some old and some new… challenges we will face and overcome together. Best wishes to all for a prosperous and healthy 2023!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bob Caputo, CFPS, is president of AFSA. He has been an important part of the fire sprinkler industry for over 41 years and is a long-time member of AFSA and promoter of merit shop contracting. He has chaired and served on many NFPA committees. Caputo has written and presented seminars throughout the world on fire protection and life-safety systems and is a regular speaker at AFSA and NFPA conventions. He has developed AFSA education and training materials, and chaired two chapters of AFSA—Arizona and Southern California. Caputo is the recipient of numerous awards, including Fire Protection Contractor magazine’s “Industry person of the Year,” San Diego County Fire Chief’s Association’s “Fire Prevention Officer of the Year,” and AFSA’s highest honor, the Henry S. Parmelee Award.